After installing a new OS, most people just jump right in and start driving it through all their favorite applications and games. Makes sense, right? The operating system, after all, should be a background player in the computing experience—a means to an end, with the end being web surfing, content editing, and wanton destruction in the first-person shooter of one’s choice.
The problem, however, is that most people, even a lot of self-described power users, never take the time to really tune the new OS, exploring its menus and setting up the interface for the fastest, most convenient operation based on personal preferences. And as operating systems offer more and more user controls, it’s the curious, performance-minded enthusiast who has the most to gain from tuning an OS to his or her liking.
It’s been about six months since Windows 7 hit the market, so we figure most of our readers have made their upgrades. For those who’ve made that jump, we present a bottle of our favorite Windows 7 tips, each designed to help you extract the very last bits of convenience and GUI-navigating performance from your own personal dream machine. And if you haven’t yet upgraded to Win7, we trust you will after reading this article, as its core features—let alone its actual Lab-benchmarked performance—kicks Vista and XP ass.
We close out our tuning session with a tip designed to supercharge the process of installing the OS. By loading Windows 7 onto a USB key, and making that key a bootable drive, you can do an end-run around slow optical-drive technology and install your OS in (pardon the pun) a flash.
It’s time to get started. Park your computer, but don’t shut down. This is one PC tune-up that can only be done with your engine running.
When Facebook launched Facebook Lite back in September it was a breath of fresh air. For many, the design of the regular site is confusing and cluttered. The Lite edition was great if you just wanted to pop in and checkout what your friends were up to. But all good things must end, and in this case it's ending too soon. Facebook is pulling the plug on the stripped down site. Trying to access the Facebook Lite now results in a redirect to the main site.
Facebook Lite used a very minimalist design. Users found a simplified settings menu, no obtrusive menu bars, and no applications bugging them. It was about the update stream more than anything else, and that's certainly enough for a lot of people. So why is the site going away? It's probably due to the fact that no one could find it. You had to know it was there to use it.
Facebook used to be a lot more like Facebook Lite, but as the service grew, feature creep set in. Not all the changes were awful taken by themselves, but the overall Facebook experience is becoming bloated. We're sorry to see Facebook Lite go. Hopefully they can learn some lessons from this experiment. Did you ever use Facebook Lite? Were you still using it when they dropped support?
Once upon a time, the typical computer virus was annoying, and even a little destructive, but nowhere near as dangerous as what computer users face today. The stakes are much higher now, and if you’re not careful or haven’t taken the proper precautions, you’re a sitting duck for hackers to steal your identity and sell your private information to the highest underground bidder. Imagine waking up to find your bank account drained or your credit destroyed. And lest you think we’re exaggerating, consider that most U.S. military personnel aren’t even allowed to tote USB thumb drives and other removable storage devices anymore because of the potential harm of a virus outbreak.
The solution to all this is to not be caught with your virtual pants around your ankles, and lucky for us, antivirus vendors have stepped up their game with increasingly robust all-in-one security suites. In fact, unlike other technology categories, the field of AV continues to expand rather than consolidate, with an overwhelming number of apps promising protection and unique features. That’s where we come in.
To help you sift through the cruft, we’re going to revisit the latest versions of the antivirus apps that showed the most promise (or have been granted a mulligan) from last year’s roundup (January 2009), and we’ll pit them against five of the most reader-requested antivirus suites we haven’t yet reviewed. You’ll notice we’ve narrowed our focus to only two freebie apps this time around (Avira, last year’s champ, and Microsoft Security Essentials, Redmond’s highly anticipated replacement to Windows Live OneCare), so if you do decide to shell out for paid software, you’ll have a wider variety of suites to compare. If the app you’re interested in isn’t included here, let us know and be on the lookout for individual reviews in future issues.
Adobes Photoshop has been a staple for graphic designers and photographers for over 20 years. Its newest incarnation, CS5, is loaded with over 250 new features that set it apart and beyond its previous counterparts. We were lucky enough to snag a copy of Adobe's beta product before release, and we’re happy to report that CS5 is a huge leap forward. Before our official review (which will be ready when Adobe finally announces an official release date in May), we’ve decided to go over some of our favorite new implementations, and how these advancements may change the way you look at graphic design and photography going forward.
It’s all about control—and when you set your DSLR to capture images in the JPEG format, you’re giving up a whole mess of control. Sure, those images may look pretty good, but your final JPEG output never accurately reflects what your camera sensor actually sees, regardless of how well it converts data into the final picture.
A digital camera captures data on an electronic sensor. At its lowest level, this data is known as the raw file. It’s sensor data at its purist, virtually free of modifications and any digital conversions. All the sensor does is catch photons on millions of receptors and write the data to files. That data is literally raw—and DSLRs and some high-end point-and-shoot cameras give you access to this data in order to manipulate your photos with tremendous control.
Don’t like the ISO setting? Tweak it! White balance doesn’t seem right? Correct it! Editing raw files lets you work directly with pure sensor data, making decisions about exposure, shutter speed, fill light, and more, all after the image has been actually shot.
With all due respect to Alexander Graham Bell, he couldn't possibly have known that his patent for "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically" would one day give birth to the modern day smartphone. He couldn't have foreseen the wonders that we take for granted today, like text messaging and voice-to-text searches.
We now live in a connected world, and today's smartphones define what it means to be a power user. Want to look up turn-by-turn driving directions on your phone? There's an app for that. There's an app for just about everything, even if they're sometimes tough to find (we're looking at you, Android Marketplace).
But for as much as we rely on our iPhone, Nexus One, or BlackBerry, it wasn't that long ago when you wouldn't think of trying to cram a mobile phone in your pocket. Remember when pagers were all the craze? Like computers, communication devices continue to evolve at a rapid pace, becoming faster, more portable, and increasingly flexible in functionality. It's been a wild ride getting to where we are today, and to pay homage to that journey, we take a look back at 40 of the most important phone models of all time.
Make no mistake, we are living in the future. In a matter of moments, we can publish our thoughts, communicate with people on other continents, or start downloading more information than we can ever consume. We are presented with hundreds of great offers every day—each with a thousand caveats. We hear about hackers stealing identities and kids being sued for copyright infringement, and even a New York socialite slap-fight taking place in an anonymous forum can take the national stage. The future is odd, indeed. To help you get some of it straight, we sat down with various lawyers and asked: How do our rights work in the digital age? Can you get in trouble posting messages about someone online? Are there exceptions to copyright? Is it legal to back up your ebooks? Not all of these questions have clear answers, and some answers don’t make much sense. We might be living in the future, but the legal system was designed to deal with the increasingly obsolete present.
Meet the world’s fastest CPU. OK, so we just gave away the big reveal to our report before you even flipped one page, and without so much as the common courtesy of a spoiler alert. For that, we do not apologize, because it’s not like you couldn’t have guessed how this one would end up. After all, Intel’s new 3.33GHz Core i7-980X builds on all the goodness of the ass-kicking quad-core 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition, but is smaller, cooler, and has an additional two cores under its heat spreader. With Hyper-Threading enabled, that’s a cool 12 threads at the ready. How could anyone screw that one up?
In fact, Intel’s Core i7-980X seems to be one of the most flawless launches we’ve seen from the company in some time. By flawless, we mean there are no contortionist acts, such as explaining to consumers that a new socket (LGA1156) will have the same CPU branding as an incompatible existing socket. Nor is there the head-scratcher of a very novel, yet very limp, integrated graphics chip in a CPU (Clarkdale), which, by the way, won’t work in boards that lack graphics output ports.
With Core i7-980X, you update your BIOS, drop the chip in, and—voilà—you spend hours rocking a six-core high. Put simply, Core i7-980X is 24-ounces of prime-rib red meat for performance enthusiasts who really haven’t had much to gnaw on since the original 3.2GHz Core i7-965 Extreme Edition came out two years ago.
So we’re done, right? You don’t need to read on? Sorry, there’s still more to learn. If you want to know if your motherboard works with the new chip, what applications can really exploit the six cores, and how this bad boy performs, you’ll have to keep reading.
Show of hands - how many of you are still clinging to Firefox not because it's the perfect browser, but because it's the best alternative out there to Internet Explorer? Probably a good many of you, and the reason why Firefox has been so hard to supplant as the No. 2 gateway to the Web is because Mozilla had the foresight to make it extensible. Thousands of add-ons exist allowing users to custom tailor the open-source browser however they see fit, and it only takes a few mouse clicks to do so.
Well move over Mozilla, and make room for Google Chrome. Why is that? To start with, Google recently added extension support to Chrome, which was previously only available in beta builds. Now that Google has given users the green light to install third-party add-ons, it's a brand new ballgame in the browser world. And in case you haven't heard, Chrome also supports Greasemonkey scripts, of which there are over 40,000 to choose from.
But those aren't the only reasons to give Chrome a second look. Google continues to tweak the underlying code and add features to what's already a fast, lean, and intelligent browser. Chrome is also highly tweakable, though you wouldn't know it by glancing at the sparse interface.
On the following pages, we'll show you how to soup up Chrome so you can leave Firefox in the rear view mirror and never look back!
Can we use Windows 7's new fast-boot capability and BIOS optimizations to get to the desktop in less than 30 seconds?
If you’re the kind of person who fumes at the microwave because it takes so long to nuke popcorn, you probably can’t stand the plodding boot of your PC, either.
And who can blame you? Time spent waiting for first the BIOS and then Windows to come to life is time that could have been spent working, gaming, or surfing the web.
Microsoft’s claim that Windows 7 could boot (from the BIOS) in 11 seconds first gave us the hope that such idle time might be lessened dramatically, but being Maximum PC we wanted to take the idea even further. We sought to not only replicate Microsoft’s claim, but to see how much time we could shave prior to the OS loading, with a combination of hardware and BIOS tweaks. Our ultimate goal: to have a machine up and running within 30 seconds of hitting the power switch.
So if your attention deficit disorder hasn’t already caused you to click to the next story, find out how we were able to achieve the shortest boot possible.